February 23, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

Tip worker reveals weird and wonderful stuff thrown away at Cornwall’s household recycling centres

He’s worked as a bingo caller, a high-end watch salesman and a Royal Navy helicopter engineer.  

And it was all good training, says James Maughan, for working at one of Cornwall’s busiest Household Waste and Recycling Centres, which are run by SUEZ on behalf of Cornwall Council. 

Once you’ve faced down a furious 95-year-old who’s fuming at you for failing to call her bingo numbers and worked with deadly helicopter blades, James says dealing with other people’s rubbish is easy. 

“I’m relatively new to the job,” says James, who works at the Connon Bridge centre near Liskeard. ”When I started, back in 2019, the household recycling centre was just ‘the tip’ to me – same as it is to most people who don’t work in waste management. 

“Now I know better. It’s a great feeling when you see one person’s unwanted stuff going off to be reused by someone else who really needs it.” 

James Maughan with a dinosaur soft toy

James Maughan, an operative at Connon Bridge Waste and Recycling Centre with Rex, a tyrannosaurus who was rescued at the centre and rehomed

You never know what strange items are going to turn up at the household recycling centres. 

“One time, I spotted a tail sticking out of the rubbish skip and thought someone had thrown their dead dog in the bin,” he says.  

“I hooked it out, only to find it was a taxidermied cat – mounted on a plinth and rearing up at me hissing with its claws out.” 

Another time, one of his fellow recycling centre workers spotted a “grenade” nestled in the rubbish. 

“We went through all the proper procedures,” he says. “We alerted the police, evacuated the site, got the bomb squad in and turns out it was just a very realistic plastic toy.” 

James really enjoys his job but finds it frustrating when people throw away perfectly good items that could be resold, given away, reused or recycled. 

He says most people who come to the site do care about recycling but there is a minority who chuck everything in the general rubbish skip without thinking 

“Last week, someone tried to bin a brand new, £100 duvet just because they’d bought the wrong size and couldn’t be bothered to return it,” he says. 

“And the other day, a lady brought in an entire kitchen set – toaster, kettle, sandwich-maker, coffeemaker – all in perfect working order. 

“She was chucking it because she was redecorating her kitchen and the colour was wrong.” 

Luckily James and his colleagues spotted the set, were able to hook it all out of the rubbish skip and give it to St Blazey Recycle Reuse Resale CIC where they items were cleaned up and passed on to someone who needed kitchen equipment and didn’t care about colour. 

“But it bothers me,” James says. “How many times do we miss good quality items being thrown in the bin? 

“It’s disappointing – how much good stuff people are willing to throw away because it’s not brand new anymore and they bin it because doing that is a bit quicker and easier than selling it or giving it away. 

“There are so many families out there, especially right now, who could really do with second hand stuff.” 

James and his fellow recycling centre workers have put together their Five Top Tips for Visiting the Tip to make your next trip quicker, easier and safer while also helping to increase Cornwall’s recycling rate and decrease its carbon footprint. 

Press release issued on February 02, 2023

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